(Practicing) My First Law School Book Brief



I'm writing this post because I am just so excited about the fact that I just practiced a book brief.

Since I am hope this summer doing almost nothing I decided to look into ways I could prepare for law school. I'm a little (a lot) antsy.

After reading a few other blogs and finding recommendations I decided to explore Reading Like a Lawyer by Ruth Ann McKinney (linked if you're interested). I chose this book because it seemed to provide more than just information about law school. I wanted something I could practice and gain useful skills from and I definitely think I have. 

I am almost done with the book and will be posting my review soon. Be on the look out!

This post is specially about the first book brief I completed as a practice exercise. I felt properly set up to actually do the brief because the book provides you with a basic understanding of legal terms that allow you to form your own ideas and start to have a working understanding of learning law.

I also relied heavily on the blogs that I have read to start building a briefing framework that is specific to my learning style and what I need - i.e. highlighting, writing v. typing, etc

One thing that I loved about the book that I haven't noticed in any blogs yet, is the emphasis on writing comments in the margins of the case as you read. This keeps you engaged in the reading and engaged readers have better memory. Ruth Ann McKinney advocates writing anything down - not just your "legal" thoughts on the case, but your opinions and how the case makes you feel - any thought that keeps you engaged in the reading and will give you context and a connection to the text when you reread or talk about in class later.

So, after determining a set up for my style I set about reading the case. My goal was to read it in 26 min (2 min/page). I'm not sure if that is a reasonable amount of time for law students to give but I think it was a great starting place for me to read and take notes. 

On my first read I wrote margin comments but did not highlighting. Highlighting is helpful, but it can fool you into thinking you are engaged in the text when really you are just supporting the authors thoughts not creating your own.

After my first read though I gave myself 10-15 minutes to reread and brief. I realize this is probably too long (the book suggested no more than 5 min) but again I think it is a great starting place. 

I went through and highlighted these categories: (I also listed my current understanding of each of these categories)
Issue - purple - the problem the court is trying to resolve
Rule of Law - pink - legal "version" of the conclusion, I have also come to think legal repercussion/result 
Precedent - green - previous cases
Facts - blue - I put a C by conflict facts and an L by legal facts (I only have 6 colors)
Rationale - yellow - rule the court relied on to reach a conclusion
Conclusion - orange - result in terms of conflict information instead of legal information like the Rule of Law

Side Note - I decided which sections and colors to highlight based on a few blogs (The Legal Duchess and Brazen & Brunette) and the suggestions I got from the book. Mine is just slightly different here based on what I think I want to know. I'm SURE it will change in the future.

Then I wrote of summary of everything I highlighted. (pictured below) By NO MEANS was this perfect, but I am happy with the start. I didn't have enough room to add the title and plaintiff/defendant but I did include those in the margin notes I made. I also got to check my brief with the one the author did which I really enjoyed. Overall, I'd say I hit the main points but included too much "fluff" information. I think not including too much information will definitely be a challenge for me. I'm happy practicing allows me to start knowing my challenges.


I can't wait to see how I expand on my ideas and figure out how to better create briefs and understand law. I sure my current perceptions will change drastically in my first few months of law school, but I am incredibly happy with this start.





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